I love Friday long runs. I am already awake on Fridays for a 6:30am conference call, which gives me an hour to have coffee, eat, and get ready to head out the door at 7:30. I love having my entire weekend free from running comittments for I can partake in fun activities without having to worry how it will affect my run.
For the first time since the marathon, I feel like I am really “in training”. For the year after the marathon, I was just sort of floating through training and races. While there is nothing wrong with that, I made a commitment to myself this year to really train for the races I participate in. Races are too expensive and I am too competitive with myself to not train hard.
Today’s 8 mile run showed me that hard work pays off and that so much of running is mental. I talked myself up for this run all day yesterday and all morning today. I fell asleep actually excited for the task ahead of me. I had a goal in my head to run the 8 miles at a 9:45 average – 45 seconds/mile faster than the rough 8 miles I ran the week before. When I hit the road, I felt great. The first couple miles were right around 9:30, and I began to worry about how that would effect me towards the end of the run. But I held steady the entire run at around 9:33.
I focused on my breathing, reminded myself that it is okay to be tired and that my body could take it. I finished the 8 miles in 1:16:10 – a 9:30 pace. Not only beating my goal for the day, but knocking a minute/mile off my time from the week before. And the best part is that I came home and Aaron had sweet potatoes roasting in the oven for me and then cooked up and egg and served me breakfast while I foam rolled. That is true love! I am one lucky girl!
For so long I felt stuck at a certain running plateau, like I couldn’t do any better and I was just happy to continue to be able to run. All of that is great, but now I have a desire to get faster, learn more about my running technique and to improve. Just like I get excited seeing improvements in the gym by lifting heavier weights, I was so happy during and after today’s run. While finishing any run is an accomplishment in itself, and I am always proud of myself for lacing up, I was beaming with pride and excitement after this run. For someone who always just assumed 10 minute miles were where I belonged for long runs, I am glad I changed my mind and confirmed that I do not have to stay in one place and at one pace.
Knocking a minute per mile off my pace in one week was obviously a lot of mental work. I really focused on this run which I didn’t do last week. Some other things I did differently:
- Focused on my breathing – when I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth slowly, I can instantly feel a difference in my heart rate and perceived effort I am exerting.
- I ate a gel at the halfway point. I know that on any run longer than 60 minutes I should be taking in fuel. But last week I thought I could get away with skipping it. Lesson learned – I felt a huge difference in the second half of my run by taking in those 22 grams of carbs and a bit of caffeine (not all energy gels contain caffeine, but I prefer the ones that do).
- I took it seriously – nuff said
I have been diligent the last couple weeks with my diet and training and have been fueling my body with what it needs to train hard (and avoiding the things it doesn’t need).
I have been performing speedwork weekly now for about 6 weeks and I can see it paying off. My body is not shocked by being pushed to a slight level of discomfort thanks to my speed intervals.
I am so happy to feel like I am really training now. I felt so strong during my run and felt like I could have kept going at the same pace. I can’t wait to see where this increased level of training takes me in my upcoming races!
Have you ever hit a running plateau? How did you bust through it?